Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





Updated: Yellow support peeling away

30 01 2018

Arnond Sakworawich, the anti-democratic director of the National Institute of Development Administration’s polling agency, has cause quite a political scene.

The Bangkok Post reports that he was due to resign today after senior administrators at NIDA, a nest of yellow-shirted academics, “bowed to political pressure in suspending the release of a poll on Gen Prawit [Wongsuwan]’s luxury wristwatches.”

He made a statement that his action was in support of “academic freedom” and about “honour.”

We may have missed it, but we can’t recall having seen Arnond defending the “academic freedom” of Ji Ungpakorn or members of Nitirat. In the past, the NIDA poll has managed to be politically-driven.

So his claims about ethics are probably empty, but that’s not the point. That point is another yellow advocate coming out against the junta.

Another Bangkok Post report has Arnond saying: “Although I support the coup and government, if [I see] something isn’t right or just, I don’t have to ‘lick top boot’…”.  Boot licking seems to be a choice for some in the middle classes.

Again, though, the point is the peeling away of yellow support from the military junta.

Updated: Prachatai reports that Arnond has “resigned as Director of the Research Centre of the National Institute of Development Administration, also known as NIDA Poll.” He did not resign from NIDA and declared that he “still supports the junta.”





Lese majeste cases build III

13 12 2014

The Bangkok Post reports that two more of the “suspects” in former Central Investigation Bureau chief’s crime network/Prince Vajiralongkorn’s divorce case have been slapped with further lese majeste charges.

On Friday, the Bangkok military court “issued the second lese majeste arrest warrant for two men already detained for his alleged connection with Pol Lt Gen Pongpat Chayapan’s network,” former Princess Srirasmi’s family and her very nasty separation from the prince.

The report states that “Chakarn Phakphoom and Nuttapong Suwadee faced another lese majeste charge after the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) had filed a complaint against them at Lat Phrao police station early in October.”

A couple of points here. First, we believe this is the earliest report we have seen on this case. Second, NIDA has been a nest of yellow shirts for several years, so it is interesting to see its involvement in this case.

NIDA states that Chakarn failed to meet the minimum attendance requirements for his post-graduate studies and conspired with Nuttapong to have NIDA believe that “Chakarn was on a palace mission.” The story continues: “He [Chakarn] later brought three letters signed by Mr Nuttapol saying Mr Chakarn had missed his class because he had to attend to a very important person.” NIDA apparently acepted this claim and “allowed him to sit for the examination.”

It seems that NIDA accepts that students serving the monarchy are treated differently from all other students. In this case, the only thing that went wrong was that they felt duped. Thailand is a very messy place when royalty is fiddling things.





Making Thailand safe from political parties

9 12 2014

The National Reform Council is a puppet “council,” set up by the military dictatorship and populated by military supporters. One of the chief supporters of the military junta, the coup and anti-democratic politics is former NIDA boss Sombat Thamrongthanyawong.

Sombat was one of the strategists for Suthep Thaugsuban’s anti-democratic street movement and, in that position, coordinated with the military. Suthep can’t leave the monkhood but Sombat keeps the anti-democratic flag flying amongst the puppets, where he is chair of a panel on “political reform.”

His panel surprised nobody by coming to a “consensus on the direct election of the prime minister and the cabinet, [the] election of MPs from large constituencies and election/selection of senators.”

While the proposal “includes the direct election of all 350 members of the lower house from multi-seat constituencies,” this reduces parliament by 150 members. Electing half of the Senate maintains the notion of half the senators being appointed by other members of the unelected swill while increasing the number of senators. This is aimed to reduce the legislative role of the lower house.

The panel also favored a directly elected premier and directly elected ministers. This is an “innovation,” removing the prime minister and cabinet from the politics of parliament and potentially breaking the link to political parties and executive.

Sombat’s reasoning on this seemed to be about opinion poll results. Of course, under the miltiary dictatorship, all political polls are more dubious than they usually are. But don’t let that hold back the anti-democrats.

Some of Sombat’s royalist buddies tried to play down the significance of these proposals. This included chief military constitution writer-for-hire Bowornsak Uwanno. They recognize that the discussion of such anti-democratic proposals may mean that there will actually be some debate.

Any proposal will eventually have to be approved by the military junta, and it is clear that it wants to wind back the significance of parliament, elected politicians and political parties.

In essence, the anti-democrats like Sombat are appealing to the generals and telling them how far they can go in diminishing democratic politics.





NIDA trashed

5 03 2014

Thailand’s National Institute of Development Administration claims to be one of Thailand’s highest ranked educational institutions, although it isn’t entirely clear what its rankings mean. A Cold War institution, set up by U.S. foundations and a part of that government’s underpinning of many Thai institutions at the time, NIDA now claims to have somehow been another of the king’s brainstorms, back in 1963. While we might want to discount this as just another North Korea-like example of the king being responsible for everything from rain to education, it is reflecting the use of NIDA, at least in name, by fanatical royalists posing as academics.

As reported at The Nation, Banjerd Singkaneti said to be “dean of … NIDA” and who turns out to be Dean of Law at NIDA, and “the deputy dean of NIDA, Pichai Rattanadilok na Phuket,” who is listed as Dean of another department at the NIDA website, both fronted the ultra-royalist and neo-fascist Sayam Prachapiwat. in its claim that the “caretaker government has lost the legitimacy to continue holding office after having breached the Constitution by seeking to divide the country…”.

Pichai has spent most of his time since 2005 engaged in political activism, jumping from one anti-democrat stage since then. In the PAD days he was considered and “earthy speaker,” meaning that he was one of the first to engage in personalized hate speech.

Sayam Prachapiwat blamed the government for all things wrong or evil but spent some time making a “legal” claim that “the February 2 elections were still incomplete, leading to the failure to open the House of Representatives,” meaning that the caretaker government was now illegitimate.

The report did not mention whether these “academics” had offered any advice on who or what would replace the caretaker government, how the election might be completed or anything else that might be expected from “academics.” Rather, they seemed to present again, in the name of NIDA, the anti-democrat manifesto.

These two administrators are using their positions at NIDA to provide some credibility for their anti-democratic views. Yet as far as we can tell from their CVs at their NIDA websites, neither seems a credible academic. That they link NIDA to an ultra-royalist and neo-fascist ginger group does little for NIDA’s academic credibility. Is NIDA broken and in need of academic repair? Certainly its academic reputation is being trashed.

 





Anti-democratic “academics”

14 12 2013

According to The Nation newspaper, the anti-democratic movement has “many experts” who take roles in the movement, as “committee members, including former MPs, academics, businesspeople, and activists.” Most of the activists are former members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its spin-off and front organizations. The list at the report has this:

Regular academics who advise the PDRC’s leaders include: Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, former rector of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA); Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of Nida’s Graduate School of Law; Charas Suwanmala, former dean of Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Political Science; and Kaewsan Athibodhi, leader of the Thai Spring group….

All of these have been anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activists since the early days of PAD. Sombat and Banjerd have long been leaders of yellow-shirted “academics,” showing up for every single group that has spun off from PAD, including the most extreme and reactionary.

Charas has effectively been a propagandist for PAD from the beginning and cooperated with the military junta and its government. His political views are rabidly anti-democratic and pro-monarchy.

Kaewsan is equally right-wing, although his politics seem driven by a personal hatred of Thaksin rather than any ideology as he has had a career in hiring himself out as a loudmouth. Most recently he has joined with racist fascists like former palace policeman Vasit Dejkunjorn.

Added to this list of hardened rightists and royalists is the now quite incoherent retiree Thirayuth Boonmee. He is said to have:

attended a meeting at the PDRC’s war room just before Suthep issued a statement requesting a meeting with Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn and commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the commissioner-general of the National Police.

These “academics” bear much responsibility for the continual undermining of electoral democracy in Thailand. Their efforts are no doubt rewarded in various ways, but their positions place them in a long line of military and royalist anti-democrats who have acted for a wealth and powerful minority against the majority.





Political voice

3 10 2012

It is kind of interesting to see rice farmers protesting against Bangkok-based academics. And, we think it is reflective of the way that politics has changed since the rise of Thaksin Shinawatra and especially since the 2006 coup.

Most readers will be aware that there has been quite a campaign waged against the Yingluck Shinawatra rice pledging scheme. PPT has no resident economists who can pontificate on the rice growing in fields they have never seen except in postcards, but the National Institute of Development Administration has no shortage of them. A few days ago urban-bound Veera Prateepchaikul at the Bangkok Post stated emphatically that he cheered:

Dr Adis Israngkura na Ayudhaya, dean of the Economic Development Faculty of the National Institute Development Administration (Nida), and 145 academics and students who co-signed a petition to the Constitution Court challenging the effectiveness of the government’s rice-pledging scheme and the sanity of continuing this badly-flawed and corruption-riddled populist policy.

Of course, to date there is no outstanding evidence of corruption riddling the scheme. Although such schemes have been plagued by corruption for all governments in the past, Veera is making great leaps and unsubstantiated claims. It is interesting that another report breaks down the numbers: 50 Nida lecturers, 27 Thammasat University academics, and 42 other people who were either students or members of the public who disagreed with the scheme. Sounds like a political attack rather than one based in sound economic analysis. As well, we know from past campaigning, that NIDA’s academics and students have a deep yellow-hue. And they have been joined by others who are broadly anti-Thaksin/anti-populist (whatever the latter term means), including the usual lot of appointed senators. The argument seems to be that rice and other crop pledging is anti-capitalist and unaffordable.

Readers may find Philip Bowring’s op-ed of interest in that it deals with the political economy of the schemes.

Whatever the economics, the politics are significant. A Bangkok Post report details some of this. It refers to rice farmers “threatening to step up protests against academics…”. These elite academics are used to the farmers being seen and not heard, as they first labored through decades of rice taxes that made farmers bear the burden of cheap urban prices and kept farmers poor and then have struggled to get an fair share of their price for crops that are always controlled by middlemen and women and millers.

Some 3,000 rice farmers gathered at NIDA to protest and “lambasted the academics for their move and accused them of being manipulated as a political tool against the government.” Protest leaders “said the pledging scheme helped free farmers from massive debts and improve their lives.” Another “5,000 rice farmers from Suphan Buri, Ang Thong, Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya and Chai Nat rallied at the provincial hall of Suphan Buri” and “200 rice farmers from Chiang Mai and Lamphun staged a similar protest at the Chiang Mai provincial hall…”.

Whether the scheme is flawed is a different debate as we see farmers standing up (once again) to elites and the privileged. Things have changed politically.

 





United royalists want lese majeste law toughened

14 01 2012

Yesterday PPT added an update to its post on blue-bloods calling for lese majeste reform. In that update, we noted that yet one more yellow-shirt group has been formed to “protect the monarchy.”

According to The Nation, that group – calling itself “Sayam Prachapiwat” or Siamese People’s Progress – this “group of royalist academics from eight universities,” as part of an orchestrated yellow-shirted campaign, has issued a remarkably backward, even fascist, “manifesto.”

It began by “attacking those who want to amend or abolish the lese majeste law and vowing to fight what they called the monopoly of Thai politics by a ‘capitalist political party’.” Here they mean the Puea Thai Party and they are specifically rejecting election results. That is not surprising. After all, this is a yellow shirt group that draws inspiration from the anti-democratic elements of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The group includes “26 academics from eight universities including Chulalongkorn and Thammasat.” As we noted yesterday, the spokesman is a NIDA academic. The reactionary academics stated that:

… no one should touch the lese majeste law and that the penalty for violating it should be made more severe, because there exists a movement to defame and abolish the monarchy institution.

Law lecturer – yes, apparently that is the correct designation – Komsan Pho-kong, from Sukhothai Thammathirat University stated that

the “real problem” is not the lese majeste law but “an attempt by some to establish a new Thai state“, referring to the perceived threat of republicanism.

This new ultra-royalist group

accused the Nitirat group of law lecturers, which will launch its public campaign to amend the lese majeste law on Sunday at Thammasat University, of exploiting their academic status to push forward a “hidden agenda” to undermine the monarchy.

For Nitirat’s agenda, see this lengthy document. There seems little that is hidden in that, and this week Nitirat will re-launch its campaign to eradicate the laws established by the 2006 coup and military junta. Indicating just how reactionary this new group is, one member stated that Nitirat “speaks like Latin American revolutionaries…”.

Of course, the academics who are members of the so-called Sayam Prachapiwat or Siamese People’s Progress are supporters of the coup. They do not see the military as problematic. Rather, they are opposed to elections that “their” party never wins. So:

The group insisted that military dictatorships’ domination of Thai society is over and the sole threat is that of the so-called “capitalist political party”, which it said is corrupt.

Remarkably, this fascist-like group argues for a reduction in political freedoms:

Komsan added that most Thais do not understand what liberty is all about. The Siam Prachapiwat group stated in its manifesto that Thailand is facing a “crisis of [too much] liberty”. “There exists the overuse of liberty, leading society toward anarchy,” part of the manifesto reads.

The Nation notes the group’s links to PAD. It is thus no surprise that it includes the deeply yellow PAD activist Charas Suwanmala of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, who is also associated with that other PAD front organization, the so-called multi-colored group. Charas is claiming that, as he did in the past, he will organize anti-Thaksin Shinawatra “academic seminars.” He promises “discussions” of the “monopolisation of Thai politics” by the Pheu Thai Party.”

Echoes of the early 2008 PAD activities are not coincidental.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post has a report that indicates how a yellow-shirted campaign has been orchestrated. Tul Sitthisomwong, also of Chulalongkorn University and a yellow shirt stalwart plans to mobilize his multi-colors to “campaign in opposition to any move to change the lese majeste law.”

In a related move, Tul will rally his followers to “show its opposition to the cabinet’s resolution to pay compensation to relatives of protesters killed and injured in the anti-government protests…”. He reckons that the amounts “was too high, because the budget comes from the people’s taxes…”.

Also joining in is a senate committee that “opposes moves to amend Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, saying those who are against the law might have a hidden agenda.” In other words, the same statement as the fascist academics noted above.

Senator Pornphan Boonyarataphan, appointed to the Senate under the military junta’s rules and chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Follow-up Committee, made the standard royalist claim that the lese majeste law is in line with the laws of other countries. This is a point that has repeatedly been shown to be false. The unelected senator went further:

The senator said the committee will send a letter to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, asking it to protest against United Nations rights official Frank La Rue’s call for the government to make changes to Section 112 after the Criminal Court sentenced a 61-year-old man to 20 years in jail after finding him guilty of lese majeste.

She expressed a position also made in the Manager, a PAD mouthpiece in rather more derogatory terms:

Those who want Section 112 of the Criminal Code changed don’t actually want the law to be more lenient but their target is to allow people to insult, defame, create malice and cause the institution not to tolerate any longer.

While that last sentence might be a bit mangled, the intention is clear. With the anti-Thaksin forces increasing their level of mobilization, the next week or so will see an interesting clash of ideas about the structure of Thai politics.





Updated: A blue blood intervention on lese majeste

12 01 2012

The battle over lese majeste has seen ultra-royalists, the military leadership and pretty much every politician in leadership positions in all parties opposing change on lese majeste. Indeed, it was only a few days ago that former 2006 coup leader and junta boss General Sonthi Boonyaratglin who now heads up the insignificant Matuphum Party got leaders and representatives of nine political parties  to agree that the lese majeste law could not possibly be amended.

What will they do now that a bunch of blue bloods have come out to urge that the Yingluck Shinawatra government amend the lese majeste law?

At the Bangkok Post it is reported that 8 “people with royal lineage” have signed a letter which they sent to the premier “asking the government to change the law. They are MR Sai Svasti Svasti, MR Saisingh Siributr, MR Narisa Chakrabongse, Vara-Poj Snidvongs na Ayudhya [former ambassador to Italy], Gen MR Krit Kritakara, MR Powari Suchiva (Rajani), MR Opas Kanchawichai and Sumet Jumsai na Ayudhya.” PPT added what we hope are correct links.

The letter complained that the number of lese majeste cases had increased substantially in recent years, although for some unknown reason, there data points are 2002 and 2009. In fact, the huge spike in lese majeste cases came after the 2006 coup and under the royalist, Democrat Party-led coalition led by Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The scribes complain that these cases have “been reported around the world and resulted in increasingly intense attacks on the institution of the monarchy…”.

To support their claim for amendment, the group “cited … King Bhumibol’s address on Dec 4, 2005 in which he said putting people who criticised the monarchy in jail only caused trouble to him.” They lament that no government has “improved” the law.They do not specify how it might be “improved.”

PPT can only find this version of the speech at present, and we challenge readers to make sense of it. Yes, the king talks about being wrong, needing to be criticicized and how he is troubled when people (foreigners?) go to jail for insulting him because he gets representations on it and Thailand is ridiculed. But the speech is essentially a criticism of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party following the 2005 election landslide.

Sumet says: “Most important of all, our group wants to draw attention to the fact that His Majesty himself has criticised the law…”. It is added that it is “the government’s duty to protect the institution and, in this instance, heed the King’s concerns.”

PPT doesn’t know much about any of these minor royals, although we did once comment on Sumet’s somewhat liberal attitude on republicanism and updating the monarchy. We have no idea if they have links to the palace and whether there views are representative of a broader royal view. Even so, that a coterie of the high and mighty see lese majeste as a negative for the monarchy is likely a significant intervention.

Update: Soon after the royals called for reform, The Nation reported yet another yellow-shirt group has been formed to “protect the monarchy.” Unsurprisingly, it comes from the died-in-the-wool royalist National Institute of Development Administration. There, Banjerd Singkaneti, dean of the Law School, “more than 20 academics from five universities have formed a group called ‘Sayam Prachapiwat’ (Siamese People’s Great Development).” The group is to be officially launched today at NIDA.

Kind of like the People’s Alliance for Democracy, “Banjerd said the group’s academic were concerned about the ongoing ‘monopoly of Thai politics’ by a group of capitalists and politicians, as well as ‘the crisis of freedom and ethics’.”

Fancy that, politics being dominated by politicians. That aside, Banjerd seems to say absolutely nothing about the repeated election victories and even landslides of recent years. Like PAD, Banjerd probably dismisses electoral politics as a sham dominated by the ignorant.

This is confirmed when Banjerd says:

Our views are based on the principle that the Thai society’s values must not be copied from the West. Our society respects the monarchy and this value is an important principle in Thai society….

That is how to deny electoral democracy. Of course, Banjerd’s group is also established to oppose Nitirat.